Last Tuesday, I got a chance to tour the CCEA Personal Property Storage Facility @ 1215 7th St. in Skid Row. Fred Faustino, Deputy Director of Operations @ the CCEA, showed me around and explained a little about how the place is run.
Highly organized and systematic are two words that popped in my head before Fred even said a word. Compassionate and protective are two more words I would use to describe the care shown toward the Facility’s clients, as I pulled my camera out to document the place. Photos of individuals were not allowed, Fred explained, unless the individuals agreed to it. Consideration for other’s dignity was on full display in this building, and I sensed a lot of pride in the folks working there too.
The set-up is an ingenious arrangement of wheeled storage bins aligned into rows wide enough to allow walking passage through. Each bin has a clear white number on top, and the bins are positioned numerically. Near the front of the warehouse was a gate where the clients wait for their bins to be rolled out to them. Only CCEA workers are allowed behind the gate. Anyone can rent a bin for 7 day intervals (one bin per person), at which time, renewal is necessary. Renewal is possible for as long as one wishes, and the service is free. Several people were waiting for their bins while I was visiting.
I wanted to know who had devised this system, and if it was the only one like it in the world.
Fred told me that the CCEA Facility came about as the fruit of labored negotiations in relation to a lawsuit filed in 2002 by the ACLU against the CCEA BID. In a compromise,
both entities crafted this system together. The Facility is now a safe and secure place for homeless individuals to store their personal belongings without fear of them being stolen from the street, or taken away as trash. The warehouse itself was donated by local property owner, Richard Meruelo.
The CCEA Facility’s system encompasses more than just storage bins. The back of the
warehouse has a separate storage area where shelves of bagged items sit tagged and waiting for their owners to collect them, if they so choose. Backpacks, bikes and assorted personal effects are carefully taken from the streets of Skid Row, and in their place is put a sticker with information on how to collect their belongings at the CCEA Facility. Items are bagged and kept for 90 days. Peggy, the CCEA Facility’s manager, on duty at the time of my visit, explained that about 10% of the bagged items get picked up. She also said that approximately 600 out of the 700 storage bins available, were currently being used.
60 storage bins were recently donated by the City of San Diego. These bins will be used for a separate and more private room in the warehouse, currently under construction-specifically for women and children. San Diego, confronted with some of the same issues of pervasive homelessness in their Downtown, as well a lawsuit looming against their City similar to the suit filed here -had recently come to visit the CCEA Facility, after hearing about it in the news. Impressed with what they saw, they had Peggy go down to San Diego to help them set up a facility of their own- same system. Here is an article I found about the relationship between our two cities: (http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-8493-the-things-they-carry.html)
(Excerpted from a SAN DIEGO CITYBEAT article titled, “The Things They Carry” December 8th, 2010 by Kelly Davis)
Scott Dreher, one of the attorneys for nine plaintiffs who say they lost medication, clothing and bedding, cash and personal documents, among other items, said initial settlement discussions with the City Attorney’s office focused on developing a better notification system, as well as a place to store items confiscated in future abatements.
“We talked about creating a lost and found with those metal shipping containers, stuff like that,” he said.
Then they heard about CCEA’s storage warehouse and made a trip to L.A. to check it out.
“We all agreed that a storage facility was a much better idea,” Dreher said, “especially using the L.A. model.
Several articles have been written, and TV stories broadcast, about the CCEA Personal Property Storage Facility from as far away as England and Japan. Many elected officials from other cities come to study the Facility, and to learn how best to emulate similar systems in their own municipalities. The reason I am writing about this Facility on my blog, has to do with a story I heard firsthand from a gentleman I recently met in the neighborhood, who I will call, “W”. W, as of this week, is a man with a place to call home (Congratulations, and a big shout out to W, if he is reading this). When we met, a couple of weeks ago, he was transitioning from the streets- into a room. He mentioned the CCEA Storage Facility as being a “Godsend”. He had heard about it by word of mouth. After losing a bed in a transitional housing program, W had found himself on the streets with bags and boxes of personal items and a bicycle. W had been wandering Skid Row with all his belongings tethered to the back of his bike as he made his way around the neighborhood to get the essential services he needed to survive. A fellow homeless man, seeing him struggle with the burden of his keepsakes trailing behind his bike-told him about the CCEA Facility. W had nothing but gratitude for the prevalence of such a place. Fred Faustino also mentioned that he hears daily at the Facility, how thankful people are that such a service exists.
The CCEA Personal Property Storage Facility: Progressive, Compassionate, and Open 7 days a week.